Atmosphere, Place, and Phenomenology: Depictions of London Place Settings in Three Writings by British-African Novelist Doris Lessing

  • David Seamon


In this chapter, I focus on a phenomenology of atmosphere as related to place. By “atmosphere,” I refer to a diffuse ineffability that regularly attaches itself to particular things, situations, spaces, and environments. By “place,” I refer to any environmental locus gathering experiences, actions, events, and meanings spatially and temporally. Following phenomenologies of place by Edward Casey (Getting Back into Place. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN, 2009) and Jeff Malpas (2018), I assume that place and place experience are an integral part of human life. “Place,” writes Casey (2009), “belongs to the very concept of existence. To be is to be bounded by place, limited by it […]. Place-being is part of an entity’s own-being.” In considering the lived relationship between atmosphere and place, I draw on three works by British-African novelist Doris Lessing (1919–2013), who regularly in her writing offers lucid accounts of place atmospheres in London, the city she emigrated to from Southern Rhodesia shortly after World War II. These three works are, first, Lessing’s novel, The Four-Gated City, which depicts the emigrant experience of a young Southern Rhodesian woman who arrives in battle-scarred London immediately after World War II (Lessing, D., The Four-Gated City. Bantam, New York, NY, 1969); second, Lessing’s In Pursuit of the English, a journalistic account of the author’s first year in London (Lessing, D., In Pursuit of the English. Popular Library, New York, NY, 1960); and, third, Lessing’s short story, “Dialogue,” one of her most encompassing depictions of the lived complexity of place atmospheres (Lessing, D., Stories. Knopf, New York, NY, 1978).


Atmosphere Place Phenomenology Doris Lessing 


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Seamon
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ArchitectureKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA

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